Much like oil today, sugar was once the most powerful commodity on earth. It shaped world affairs, influencing the economic policies of nations, driving international trade and wreaking environmental havoc.
The Western world’s addiction to sugar came at a terrible human cost: the near extinction of the New World indigenous peoples gave rise to a new form of slavery, as millions of captured Africans were crammed into ships to make the dangerous voyage to Caribbean cane plantations. What began as the extraordinarily expensive luxury of nobles and the very wealthy has become a staple in the modern world. Indeed, it played its own role in creating that world, fuelling the workers of the Industrial Revolution, and giving rise to the craze for fast food.
Sugar: A Bittersweet History tells the extraordinary, dramatic and thought-provoking story of this most commonplace of products from its very origins to the present day. Elizabeth Abbott examines how and in what quantities we still consume sugar; its role in the crisis of obesity and diabetes; how its cultivation continues to affect the environment; and how coerced labour continues in so many sugar-producing nations.
Richly detailed, impeccably researched and thoroughly compelling, Sugar is a comprehensive social history of a substance that has revolutionised the way we eat, and poignant testimony to the suffering endured in the name of satisfying the world’s sweet tooth.